After a bit of runaround, I now have an Ecuadorian phone number, though I'm not sure if it can be called from the US. Pretty sure it can make calls to the US, though this is a lot more expensive than going to a corner phone cabina shop. I ought to be able to send and receive texts. I'll try it out and send the number along in an email if it works. I don't expect to use it much for calls since they cost about $.25 a minute. The best is that the phone company is called "Movistar."
It would have been a lot easier if it hadn't been for AT&T nee Cingular nee AT&T. When I first got here, the phone showed the Movistar network, so I knew the phone was capable of working. After my American service ended, it just said, "Inactive SIM." Last Friday, at the beginning of the holiday weekend, I went into a Movistar store at the mall to reactivate it with a new SIM. They tried one out first, and it said, "Incorrect SIM."
It wasn't enough that they locked me into a 2-year contract (without which I still wouldn't have bothered to switch companies) to get the phone for only $160. They also locked the phone so it couldn't work with another carrier. I think I was under the impression that it wasn't locked, because I remember being pleased that it was GSM and worked on bands that are used around the world. Maybe it's ok to prevent your customers from switching to the competition, but I wanted to use it where AT&T doesn't exist. It's my phone. I gave them my business for three years while I was in the US and will probably keep giving them money for iPhone service when I get back. I should be able to keep using it rather than sending it to the landfill and buying a new one I don't need.
The guy at the shop said it could probably be unlocked, but I'd need to go to the main Movistar building, which, fortunately, was just down the street from the mall. Unfortunately, it was closed when I got there. I went back today, only to be told that this wasn't the right place, I should go to the Movistar store right across the street. I went over there and the girl, who was pained by my Spanish and insisted on switching to English, said, no, they couldn't unlock it there, but a block away was a telephone service shop that probably could. I was beginning to suspect I was trapped in a third-world buck-passing loop, but I found the shop, and yes, they could unlock the phone. It took 10 minutes, cost $10 plus $5 for a new "chip," as SIM cards are called here, that came with $3 credit. Cheap! Easy! What more could I ask? So lawless Latin America, where many laws that enable corporations to exploit their customers are just ignored (I've seen scores of video stores, but I've yet to see a non-bootleg DVD), prevails.